“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
The Two Towers
SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
I considered reviewing the Extended Edition of The Two Towers in two parts like I did with Fellowship last week, but I can’t really be bothered. There’s no real differentiation between the parts anyway; it’s just a technical convenience, really.
So what happens in The Two Towers? Well, not very much, it turns out. (Cry your pardon, Constant Reader, but it’s true.) The Fellowship is broken: Boromir is dead, Gandalf lost, Merry and Pippin captured, Sam and Frodo fled. The remnants of this ragged bunch, namely Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, cross the fields of Rohan in order to rescue Merry and Pippin, a venture in which they fail, and get diverted instead to fight the Battle of Helm’s Deep, which is basically one big siege scene which takes up practically the whole film. Yawn.
Oh, I forgot the infamous Dead Marshes/Emyn Muil sequence, which sees Frodo, Sam and Gollum (Andy Serkis’ Smeagol/Gollum is possibly the best thing about this interminable film) trekking through substantially the same carbon-fibre rock set for hours on end, having the exact same conversation over and over again. And then Faramir gets broken because Peter Jackson does not understand Tolkien.
That was quite a savage summary. I don’t hate this film; if I did, I wouldn’t have given up three hours’ working time to watch it. It’s just that it doesn’t measure up well in the context of the trilogy. If you marathon it, as I did, you get the Middle-earth Magical Mystery Tour of Fellowship at the beginning, and the all-out emotion-fest that is Return of the King at the end. And in the middle? There’s this long, long stretch of what is essentially political medieval fantasy, which has never interested me. Admittedly, the book has many of the same problems, but those are at least alleviated by Tolkien’s lovely, sing-song prose. And if you like battle scenes, sure, Helm’s Deep is a good battle scene. But I like my films to have some story as well as all the ‘orrible murder.
I’d also like to say something about Jackson’s alterations to the book, many of which are either problematic or downright odd. As I said before, the creation of a truncated character arc for Faramir fundamentally misunderstands his purpose in the original story, which is to act as a foil for Boromir’s greed. Lest you think that these are the rantings of a purist, I’d like to note that I don’t have an issue with the expansion of Faramir’s relationship with Denethor; I think that actually adds to the story. I do have an issue with Faramir’s temporary capture of the Ring. What has happened to “so be it” Faramir, the Faramir who would not take the Ring if it lay by the wayside? What has happened to the last hope of Men? Jackson’s Faramir only confirms Elrond’s pronouncement that “Men are weak.”
Then there’s the love triangle, which, really, the film could do without, given that much of it happens in flashback and tends to distract from the whole saving-Middle-earth thing. Sorry, but on the whole I care more about whether Sauron conquers all of civilisation than whether it’s Eowyn or Arwen who gets to marry Aragorn.
I also hate that Merry and Pippin can only get the Ents to attack Isengard by showing them all the trees that Saruman’s Orcs have hacked down…because the Ents didn’t already know this? Because the Ents have no social conscience? Because this essentially unhasty folk can be ruled by such blatant emotional manipulation? The point of the Ents is that they are fundamentally alien, isolated from the cares of Elves and Men. They’re not on anyone’s side but their own, yet even they fight against the dark of Sauron and Saruman. But no. For Jackson, they’re just tall people made out of wood.
The Two Towers is by a considerable margin my least favourite of the three films. It’s too long, it has no shape to it, and it ruins one of my favourite characters of the books. Which is, of course, not to say that it is, by itself, a bad film; only that it suffers from a bad case of Middle Film Syndrome, and that I, personally, am not interested in watching Gimli and Legolas playing killing games in the rain.